Jim Kweskin Gets Old Tymey

Jim Kweskin Gets Old Tymey

The political polemics that dominated so much of the ‘60s folk revival didn’t necessarily reach through every group’s discography – and thankfully so. There’s only so much heavy handed, deep lyrical content that one can digest. That being said, though, the opposite side of the coin is that a band might completely disregard earthly concerns and simply create a slew of happy-go-lucky tracks that function only as entertainment. There’s a time and place for such work, but occasionally a ludicrous, sun shiney outlook on life becomes tiresome if not obviously trite. Jim Kweskin and his Jug Band are able to come across as a group of playful, citified hicks. And while there’s nothing too difficult to deal with on any of the band’s albums, each disc is considered a folk stepping stone for the decade.

It might be hyperbole to figure that Kweskin and company were the torch bearers of old tyme string band music, but they may have been one of the better known proponents of the style during the band’s tenure. Beginning in Boston while Kweskin attended school there, he assembled a group that was eventually asked to perform in New York, where a young Maria D’Amato met Geoff Muldar. The two would be married – although they split some time in the ‘70s. But if not for this meeting and eventual incorporation into the Kweskin band, folks might not have become familiar with Maria – regardless of her last name.

The string of discs that the band released during the ‘60s, though, utilized at least as much music from the past as any other newly composed group of the era. There weren’t too many acts – apart from the Holy Modal Rounders – that attempted to (kinda) accurately portray musics from a pre-World War II period in American history. Trading in various players and eventually incorporating Bill Keith probably served to allow the band to venture even further into the mess of ole Americana. And on Kweskin’s second disc, Jug Band Music, which finds Keith in tow, his Jug Band came up with fourteen tracks that aptly trace a history of the States.

Working with a variety of covers ranging from Blind Boy Fuller’s “Rag Mama” to a number of Memphis Jug Band tunes, Kweskin and company revitalize a music. But in contrast to a number of folk inspired groups from the same era, this music here comes across as slight and at times dinky regardless of the musical acumen touted by each of the players represented on the disc. There aren’t any missteps, but the good time vibe that’s so pervasive in Kweskin’s catalog, at times, only makes his work seem like an assemblage of throw offs.

That’s not what these songs actually are, but the originals included don’t really match up to the tunes re-imagined for this newer ensemble. This band – and Kweskin in general – remain an important link in American folk music’s lineage, but the concert posters you can track down for this Jug Band might look cooler than some of this music here sounds.